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About the Intelligence Community:

What is the intelligence community (IC)?

The IC is a federation of executive branch agencies and organizations that work separately and together to conduct intelligence activities necessary for the conduct of foreign relations and the protection of the national security of the United States. These activities include:

    • Collection of information needed by the President, the National Security Council, the Secretaries of State and Defense, and other Executive Branch officials for the performance of their duties and responsibilities.
    • Production and dissemination of intelligence.
    • Collection of information concerning, and the conduct of activities to protect against, intelligence activities directed against the US, international terrorist and international narcotics activities, and other hostile activities directed against the US by foreign powers, organizations, persons, and their agents.
    • Administrative and support activities within the US and abroad necessary for the performance of authorized activities.
    • Such other intelligence activities as the President may direct from time to time.

Who are the members of the US Intelligence Community (IC)?

The IC is a federation of executive branch agencies and organizations that work separately and together to conduct intelligence activities necessary for the conduct of foreign relations and the protection of the national security of the United States. There are 17 federal organizations in the Intelligence Community.

What is the vision and mission of the IC?

The United States Intelligence Community must constantly strive for and exhibit three characteristics essential to our effectiveness. The IC must be integrated: a team making the whole greater than the sum of its parts. We must also be agile: an enterprise with an adaptive, diverse, continually learning, and mission-driven intelligence workforce that embraces innovation and takes initiative. Moreover, the IC must exemplify America's values: operating under the rule of law, consistent with Americans' expectations for protection of privacy and civil liberties, respectful of human rights, and in a manner that retains the trust of the American people. 

What does the IC protect the United States against?

The threat to the United States that the Intelligence Community must mitigate takes several forms. In addition to conventional military threats that have challenged us in the past, new transnational problems involve the possibilities of:

Terrorism: Terrorism means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience – violence as evidenced in the US on 11 September 2001.

Proliferation: Proliferation refers to the provision of nuclear weapons and/or technology by states that possess them to states that do not.

Chemical Warfare: Chemical Warfare can be considered the military use of toxic substances such that the chemical effects of these substances on exposed personnel result in incapacitation or death. It is the impact of chemical effects instead of physical effects that distinguishes chemical weapons from conventional weapons, even though both contain chemicals. A chemical weapon comprises two main parts: the agent and a means to deliver it. Optimally, the delivery system disseminates the agent as a cloud of fine droplets. This permits coverage of a broad amount of territory evenly and efficiently.

Biological Warfare: Biological Warfare is the use of pathogens or toxins for military purposes. BW agents are inherently more toxic than CW nerve agents on a weight-for-weight basis and can potentially provide broader coverage per pound of payload than CW agents. Moreover, they are potentially more effective because most are naturally occurring pathogens – such as bacteria and viruses – which are self-replicating and have specific physiologically targeted effects, whereas nerve agents are manufactured chemicals that disrupt physiological pathways in a general way.

Information Infrastructure Attack: Political activism on the Internet has generated a wide range of activity, from using e-mail and web sites to organize, to web page defacements and denial-of-service attacks. These computer-based attacks are usually referred to as hacktivism, a marriage of hacking and political activism.

Narcotics Trafficking: Drug dependence is a chronic, relapsing disorder that exacts an enormous cost on individuals, families, businesses, communities, and nations. Addicted individuals frequently engage in self-destructive and criminal behavior. Along with prevention and treatment, law enforcement is essential for reducing drug use. Illegal drug trafficking inflicts violence and corruption on our communities. Law enforcement is the first line of defense against such unacceptable activity. The Intelligence Community must support this defense to the extent feasible and allowable by law.

How is intelligence collected?

There are six basic intelligence sources, or collection disciplines:

    • Signals Intelligence (SIGINT)
    • Imagery Intelligence (IMINT)
    • Measurement and Signature Intelligence (MASINT)
    • Human-Source Intelligence (HUMINT)
    • Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT)
    • Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT)

SIGINT: Signals intelligence is derived from signal intercepts comprising -- however transmitted -- either individually or in combination: all communications intelligence (COMINT), electronic intelligence (ELINT) and foreign instrumentation signals intelligence (FISINT).

The National Security Agency is responsible for collecting, processing, and reporting SIGINT. The National SIGINT Committee within NSA advises the Director, NSA, and the DNI on SIGINT policy issues and manages the SIGINT requirements system.

IMINT: Imagery Intelligence includes representations of objects reproduced electronically or by optical means on film, electronic display devices, or other media. Imagery can be derived from visual photography, radar sensors, and electro-optics.

NGA is the manager for all imagery intelligence activities, both classified and unclassified, within the government, including requirements, collection, processing, exploitation, dissemination, archiving, and retrieval.

MASINT: Measurement and Signature Intelligence is technically derived intelligence data other than imagery and SIGINT. The data results in intelligence that locates, identifies, or describes distinctive characteristics of targets. It employs a broad group of disciplines including nuclear, optical, radio frequency, acoustics, seismic, and materials sciences.

Examples of this might be the distinctive radar signatures of specific aircraft systems or the chemical composition of air and water samples. The Directorate for MASINT and Technical Collection (DT), a component of the Ddefense Intelligence Agency, is the focus for all national and Department of Defense MASINT matters.

HUMINT: Human intelligence is derived from human sources. To the public, HUMINT remains synonymous with espionage and clandestine activities; however, most of HUMINT collection is performed by overt collectors such as strategic debriefers and military attaches. It is the oldest method for collecting information, and until the technical revolution of the mid to late twentieth century, it was the primary source of intelligence.

To improve HUMINT throughout the IC in response to the recommendations made by the WMD Commission, the CIA, working closely with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), established the National Clandestine Service (NCS).

OSINT: Open-Source Intelligence is publicly available information appearing in print or electronic form including radio, television, newspapers, journals, the Internet, commercial databases, and videos, graphics, and drawings. While open-source collection responsibilities are broadly distributed through the IC, the major collectors are the DNI's Open Source Center (OSC) and the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC).

GEOINT: Geospatial Intelligence is the analysis and visual representation of security related activities on the earth. It is produced through an integration of imagery, imagery intelligence, and geospatial information.

What is counterintelligence?

Counterintelligence (CI) is the business of identifying and dealing with foreign intelligence threats to the United States and its interests. Its core concern is the intelligence services of foreign states and similar organizations of non-state actors, such as transnational terrorist groups. Counterintelligence  has both a defensive mission - protecting the nation's secrets and assets against foreign intelligence penetration - and an offensive mission - finding out what foreign intelligence organizations are planning to better defeat their aims.

As defined in Executive Order 12333, "counterintelligence means information gathered and activities conducted to identify, deceive, exploit, disrupt, or protect against espionage, other intelligence activities, sabotage, or assassinations conducted for or on behalf of foreign powers, organizations, or persons, or their agents, or international terrorist organizations or activities."

The National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC),  under the leadership of the National Counterintelligence Executive (NCIX), was created to serve as the head of national counterintelligence for the USG and provide strategic direction to the counterintelligence community.

NCSC coordinates counterintelligence outreach efforts and the dissemination of warnings to the private sector on intelligence threats to the U.S. Visit the NCSC website at for an in-depth look into the counterintelligence vision and mission for preserving our national security.

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